FBI Investigates Lackawanna County Family Court
More information has been learned about why federal officials are investigating a program in the Lackawanna County family court system.
In September, and again this week, FBI agents confiscated records from family court.
The guardian ad litem is a court appointed lawyer who represents a child while its mother and father try to settle custody cases.
One or both parents are required to pay the fees for the guardian ad litem’s services. Now, sources tell Newswatch 16, federal agents are looking to see if parents were cheated and the fees were pocketed.
A woman who does not want to be identified because she`s testified to law enforcement agents claims she was cheated out of thousands of dollars during supervised visits with her young son.
“It broke me, paying that amount of money. It broke me,” the woman said.
Her ex has custody of her son.
Lackawanna County records show she was supposed to pay $20 an hour for a caseworker to supervise her weekly visits. Instead, she said, she was charged $65 an hour.
“One hour, and the hour would go by so quick. Here`s my money. I see my son for the hour. Goodbye,” the woman said.
What is worse, she said, the caseworker insisted on taking cash and refused to write receipts.
“I didn`t get any receipts no,” she said. “I tried very hard, yeah. She just wouldn`t do it. She said the county knows how much you`re paying,” the mother recounted.
Sources said several non-custodial parents are complaining they have been overcharged for supervised visits and not given receipts. A recent federal subpoena of the guardian ad litem`s office appears to be getting some answers.
Court papers show a federal grand jury directed the Lackawanna County courts to give investigators every case supervised by attorney Danielle Ross. She runs the Lackawanna County guardian ad litem program, and assigns caseworkers for supervised visits.
The woman said Ross was the guardian ad litem for her son. The woman claims she was overcharged between $1,500 and $2,000 in the last two and a half years.
“You don`t want to give up. So just keep fighting, because it`s just not fair for people to get away with lies and deceitfulness,” the woman added. “And then they work for the county? It`s unexplainable.”
Newswatch 16 tried to contact guardian ad litem administrator Danielle Ross. Her secretary said Ross was busy with clients when we visited, and Ross did not return our phone calls.
There have been no criminal charges filed in the case.
Meantime, the woman is now paying just $20 and not $65 an hour for visitation, after telling her story to law enforcement.